GREEN RIBBON DAY—Larimer community volunteers join elected officials for the ribbon cutting and opening of the Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center. (Photos by Gail Manker)
Even as state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Lawrenceville, was working to turn the former Connelly Trade School into a green technology innovation center in the Hill District, he was also looking at bringing green building practices—and related job training to the city’s East End.
He found the perfect symbol for such a transformation at an abandoned BP gas station on Larimer Avenue, which reopened as the Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center in June.
NATURAL DRAINAGE BARRIER—Plantings designed to prevent runoff are part of the design.
On Aug. 25, Ferlo held the 2nd Annual Green Street Fair at the location with a ribbon cutting to show off its new Stormwater Management Garden. Joining him were representatives from several sponsors and partners including the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, which funded the purchase and renovation of the building, Penn State University, the Larimer Consensus Group, Pittsburgh Community Services Inc. and Allegheny County.
“Last year I was proud to see the EECO Center itself open on the site of a formerly abandoned BP gas station. Just over a year later, we are about to unveil the latest environmentally innovative feature of the EECO Center: its Stormwater Management Garden,” said Ferlo. “The garden was created entirely by community volunteers and uses green infrastructure like native plants and grasses, permeable pavement, and bioswales.”
Mitigating stormwater runoff is a key part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate that will soon lead to a minimum of $2 billion in infrastructure upgrades for the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority and the communities it serves including Pittsburgh.
“This means a lot,” said Larimer Green Team Chair Carolyn Peeks. “It means a lot for the future of Larimer and for the future of my kids.”
The passive features incorporated in the center’s garden, the local flora and permeable walkways; demonstrate less expensive methods to sustain water quality at the local level.
The center is also part of the revitalization of Larimer,” said Ferlo. “This center will not only increase awareness of ways residents can better use energy, but also build awareness about job opportunities in the growing field of renewable energy and sustainable construction.”
Since 2009, more than $1.4 million has been invested in the center, which in addition to being a green initiative incubator, serves as an employment and internship center, houses green building demonstrations and provides utility and energy budgeting expertise for residents and small businesses.
“This can be a model for the city, for the region and literally for the whole country,” said County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who also took part in the ribbon cutting.
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